A few words — and a lot of music
Wynton Marsalis blows into Arcata with an impressive arsenal of jazz
Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis doesn’t mince words. With him, one-word answers often suffice.
His hobby? “Basketball” Advice to young players trying to make it? “Practice.” His thoughts on trumpet great Miles Davis? “Dead.”
Marsalis doesn’t mince music, either. At 30, he is a jazz artist wise beyond his years, a nattily dressed purist who happily dabbles in classical music but steers clear of pop fads.
While other jazz artists pursue more commercial ventures — Marsalis’ brother Branford, for instance, left Wynton’ s band in the early 1960s to be in Sting’s band and is set to lead the new “The Tonight Show’’orchestra — Wynton has kept the traditional jazz fires burning.
His Wednesday show at Humboldt State University is on the heels of “Sometimes it Goes Like That,” his 12th album on Columbia Records, due for release in May. It will follow “Soul Gestures in Southern Blue,” a three-volume blues cycle universally hailed as sophisticated and soulful.
“Soul Gestures in Southern Blue” is Marsalis’s statement to the world that the blues isn’t limited to bourbon-breathed club singers or finger-pickin’ Delta porch-rockers.
“I’m not necessarily on a mission,” the raspy-voiced trumpeter says in a phone interview from New York “But as a musician that’s part of my job. It’s like these basketball players — they have camps all the time to show people how to play basketball — that’s just part of the job.”
Marsalis’ sold-out concert at HSU’s Van Duzer Theatre won’t be a structured affair. He says he will not walk on stage with a play list.
“I generally won’t do that,” he says. “Every show is different. I never really know what I’m going to play. It depends on what the audience feels and what seems like to me what people want to hear.”
The eight-time Grammy award winner has won fame and fortune in a field of music that is particularly hard to make it big. And when he says practice makes perfect, he speaks from experience. The son of composer/pianist Ellis Marsalis, Wynton got his first horn, a gift from trumpeter Al Hirt, at age 6 and was studying classical music by age 12. He played in the New Orleans Civic Orchestra throughout high school, went on to attend New York’s famed Julliard School of Music and performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
“My belief is in music — I don’t get into all this stuff about careers. You never know when you are going to become popular.
“The stuff you could learn from music, like discipline, stuff about your personality, stuff about his tory, about humanity, spirituality — no role model in the world has that. And that’s the thing that music can afford you.”
Marsalis has numerous splashy honors and awards to go along with all the Grammys. He has been on the cover of Time magazine, appeared on everything from “Sesame Street” to “The Tonight Show,” and has won every jazz award you could think of.
But it is his charitable work that has given him the most satisfaction. His trumpet has been blown on behalf of everything from battered women’s centers to an Amnesty International tour of Chile.
“To me the things I am most proud of are the community service awards. When I go into a community and the people in the town give me a plaque or some thing and thank me for being a positive influence on the lives of children — those are the things that mean the most to me.”
While there are many musicians he admires (“there are so many I can’t think of one”),he says he pretty much ignores today’s popular music. Rap, rock and country are virtually non-existent as far as Marsalis is concerned.
“I do like country music,” he says. “It sounds like blues. I don’t listen to a lot of that music, though. Just because I like it doesn’t mean I actually listen to it.
“Rap or rock — all that is the same thing to me, because it rep resents an extension of Elvis Presley’s music, rather than George Gershwin, who to me is one of the greats of American popular music.”
Marsalis has performed with rap musicians “mainly for publicity or commercial reasons” and does not care for its lack of spontaneity on the musical end.
“When you play that kind of music, the music is already pre recorded half the time. And in American music dialogue is the most important thing.
“If you don’t do a record live and you’re not actually there when the musicians are playing then 60 to 70 percent of your interest in the music is gone.”
by Joel Davis
Source: The Times-Standard